In 2001 I took over the running of the Murthly Estate in Highland Perthshire when my father retired. His Factor (estate manager) retired at the same time, so the moment was right for a new approach.
It was clear from my first interactions with the senior partner of the Bidwells team in Perth that we shared a common vision for the estate. And today, more than fifteen years later, Bidwells remains the trusted manager of the Murthly Estate.
Our estate centres on Murthly Castle, which has been our family home for 400 years. Like many families who own rural Scottish estates, our constant challenge is to satisfy the needs of our immediate family, ensure all the operations on the estate work successfully, protect and care for an ancient building and diverse landscape, and meet the needs of tenants, operators and the local community. And all while keeping one eye on the future.
It’s impossible to run an estate this size alone, and I value the insight and energy of the Bidwells team.
Room for improvement
The estate wasn’t in the best shape when I took over. Many of the enterprises of today’s estate were already operational but these assets needed shaping and controlling so they could achieve their full productivity. We formalised a five year plan to help the estate grow and develop without becoming overcommercialised.
Today the estate business consists of an extensive livestock farm, sawmill, numerous let cottages, forestry, fishing, pheasant shooting and deer stalking. We also let the castle and chapel for weddings and corporate events.
An eye on the future
In early 2016 Bidwells undertook a full estate review and identified areas where we could make substantial savings. It also outlined potential opportunities and threats. We’re now in the process of exploring options for renewable energy and to enhance our tourism offering. In the meantime we watch and wait to understand the impact of Brexit and the Land Reform Act. However, with Bidwells’ support we’re ready to adapt to whatever is in store.
The success of any project comes down to the people involved. I work well with Ralph, the estate’s Factor, his team in the Bidwells office in Perth, and with specialists from the consultancy’s UK-wide team who support us on an as-needed basis. I value their advice, measured approach and wealth of market knowledge.
Working with the community
Bidwells is an invaluable facilitator of the various community events we host on the estate. However, we’ve always taken a hands-on approach to our involvement in the local community. Our children went to the local primary school, and we have continued to maintain ties and friendships through our involvement on local committees. We’ve also embraced the social media age: the estate has an active Facebook page which helps us to promote communication and dialogue.
Bidwells understands that the estate is much more than a business to me and my family.
Owning and running a rural Scottish estate that has been in one’s family for hundreds of years is a privilege. It’s also a huge responsibility. Having the support of a trusted estate manager and advisor like Bidwells eases the pressure and provides objectivity. Together we have created a varied and vibrant business that supports vital rural jobs and generates income for the local community.
One day I hope that my son will take over from me. While I’ll be careful to only offer advice when he asks me for it, I will impress upon him the importance of working with an estate manager and advisor with in-depth knowledge and expertise he can trust.
The year the Steuart Fothringham family took up residence at the castle
The size of the Murthly Estate
Thomas Steuart Fothringham
Owner of Murthly & Strathbraan Estates, Perth